Emeritus Fellow Clive Wilmer is to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ruskin Society of North America.
The Ruskin Society of North America is committed to teaching and practising the principles developed by the 19th century writer, philosopher and critic John Ruskin. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the Society’s highest honour. The award ceremony will be streamed live via Zoom at 5pm (UK) on Saturday 23 September.
Clive Wilmer is a poet, critic, literary journalist, translator, editor, broadcaster and lecturer. He has previously described John Ruskin as “overwhelmingly the most important influence” on his life.
Clive’s first collection of poetry, The Dwelling-Place (1977), opens with an epigraph from Ruskin’s Val d’Arno. He has written and lectured extensively on Ruskin. From 2009 to 2019, he served as Master of the Guild of St George, the charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy founded by Ruskin in 1871.
Responding to news of this award, Clive Wilmer said: “‘The work of John Ruskin has been my main academic interest since the early 1980s when I edited an influential collection of his essays and lectures, Unto this Last and Other Writings. But he has also been a deep personal enthusiasm since I first read him in 1966, and I have also been involved in the practice of his ideas, especially through his Guild of St George.”
Clive’s nine books of poetry include Devotions (1982), Of Earthly Paradise (1992), The Falls (2000) and Urban Pastorals (2014). His Selected Poems were published in 1995, with a second collection, New and Collected Poems, published in 2012.
He has been a Fellow of Sidney since 2004. In 2012, he became an Emeritus Fellow.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) came to prominence as an art critic, notably through the publication of the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), a defence of J.M.W. Turner. He wrote on a wide range of subjects, and in a wide range of styles, emphasising the connections between nature, art and society. Unto This Last (1860) sets out his moral and social vision.
In 1869, he became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing.
In 1871, Ruskin began producing a series of monthly "letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain", the Fors Clavigera, developing what he saw as the principles underlying an ideal society, a response to the era of mass production. In the first of these letters, he wrote: “I have listened to many ingenious persons, who say we are better off now than ever we were before. I do not know how well off we were before; but I know… we cannot be called, as a nation, well off, while so many of us are either living in honest or in villainous beggary.” The Guild of St George sprang from this aspect of Ruskin’s work.
Ruskin travelled widely, from a young age. He visited Venice for the first time in 1835, and the city became important to his work.
In 2015, Clive Wilmer spent time as a Visiting Professor at the Università Ca' Foscari in Venice. In 2018, he organised a symposium on Ruskin and his relationship with Venice at the Museo Correr, to accompany the exhibition John Ruskin: Le pietri di Venezia at the Ducal.
To mark Clive’s Lifetime Achievement Award, we wanted to share, with the author’s permission, his poem Venice.
Salt-bleached marble, the green stain of seaweed.
A face the sea dismembers and remembers
Looks back at those who lean towards it, drowning
In admiration, in reflected glory.
Here man hath set his footprint on the waters.
We see the tides disperse it, see them relinquish
The white of marble and the green of seaweed.
You can listen to a selection of Clive’s poems, recorded by the author with an introduction to each piece, on the Poetry Archive website.
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